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My Greatest Confidence

Dear brothers and sisters in the Gulf Atlantic Diocese,

I remember my graduation from high school. I said goodbye to many friends, but it did not sink in at the time that I would probably never see most of them again.

As I come to my retirement, I am reminded of Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. He is heading into persecution in Jerusalem and realizes that this will be his last journey in Asia Minor. He says this as part of his farewell:

And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.

Obviously, this moment of stepping down as your diocesan bishop and heading into Marcia’s and my next season is nothing like what Paul faced. But as I have visited parishes this year, I have realized that while I will see some of you in the future, there are many of you that I will not see again in this life. I will miss you.

I have been privileged beyond measure to be your bishop, and have been touched over and over again by your prayers and support, as have Marcia and our family. I rejoice in all that the Lord Jesus has done among you this past almost thirteen years during the formation and first season of this diocese. The staff, clergy, and lay leadership of the diocese have made all of our ministry together possible. I praise the Lord for them and for you all.

I have great confidence in Bishop-elect Alex Farmer as he becomes your next shepherd, and in the staff he is assembling. It is obvious that the Lord has been preparing him in so many ways to lead you in the next phase of ministry. His wife Jody has much to share with you as well.

My greatest confidence is in the gospel, and in the Father’s care and good purposes for you all through Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, as I say goodbye, let me quote from Paul’s farewell once more:

And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32)

In the Love of Jesus, 

+Neil

The Rt. Rev. Neil G. Lebhar
Bishop of the Gulf Atlantic Diocese